In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her “uncle” Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf’s, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.
Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler.
And Gretchen follows his every command.
Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can’t stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can’t help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she’s been taught to believe about Jews.
As Gretchen investigates the very people she’s always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?
Next to The Book Thief, Prisoner of Night and Fog is the most researched historical novel I read so far. It covers a time period I always like to read about and and after I was disappointed in another one that I recently read, I was glad that I liked this much more.
When I started reading this I wasn’t sure I felt comfortable. At first it was weird to read from someone’s POV who got brain washed like that. Reading someone’s thoughts who actually thinks that Hitler is a good person, that his ideas are rational, and defends him against people who think otherwise, was something to get used to. It sure made for an interesting POV though and after a while I didn’t feel like whacking her over the head anymore.
Not only that made her a very interesting main character. She also gives the opportunity to get a closer look at Hitler himself. With the circumstances about her father’s death, Anne Bankman shows us some intriguing facts about Hitler as a person, his characteristics.
The most interesting part about this story was Gretchen’s character development. Seeing how she slowly realizes that Hitler is not the person she thinks he is. By investigating her father’s death, she slowly changes her mind about things. It doesn’t happen all at once. That deep-seated opinion can’t be altered from one day to the other. It’s a slow going process filled with doubt that made the whole story very realistic.
She does not only develop in that way though. She also becomes more confident, takes risks, thinks for herself and pursuits her own goals.
I loved how Anne Bankman created this mystery about Gretchen’s dad’s death around a real event. This mystery itself also makes this a gripping read. Gretchen can’t just go and start investigating but has to be careful so that no one notices. By seeking the truth about her dad’s death she always puts herself and Daniel’s life on the line which makes this a thrilling read.
The most amazing thing about this book is that Anne Blankman only created a few new characters and relationships. The main character and her family are of course made up but besides them there are only a few others. I loved how close she kept to real people and events instead of only working with superficial facts. Reading this sometimes felt like a fun way to learn about historical facts on the one hand and was fun to see known facts covered on the other.
With all the things Gretchen was taught to believe about the Jews, I thought a love story with one was a very good way to show as how she develops, how she slowly changes her mind about everything she’s been taught. This part is not taking up the whole story though and is only a secondary aspect of the story that definitely deserves it’s place in this novel.
When it comes to books set in Germany I’m always hesitant. Such novels often include a lot of German words and phrases only to then translate them. For me that means reading (/understanding) a lot twice. I was glad to see that Anne Bankman did this with a reasonable amount of words, mostly technical terms, so that it didn’t get annoying for me. It was also fun to read this with all the German names of characters and places.
This has been one of the best historical fiction books I read. Anne Bankman put a lot of effort into her research and created a thrilling story around a real historical event. A fantastic debut that makes me excited for more books by the author.